Answering Interview Questions About Your “Job Hop” Past

By Joe Stein

In the past, I have written about the importance of avoiding the perception of “job hopping” in your work history. The idea being to avoid the issue by not making that many career moves. What happens, however, when you already have a resume history of ‘hopping” and you are in front of the Interviewer? What can you say or do to alleviate the concerns of the Hiring Manager?
 
There are a number of approaches you can take (and also avoid) when addressing the “job hop” issue. Let’s examine some tips for you to consider in order to make this question easier for you to address.
 
·         Don’t Debate – It may be tempting to go in full denial mode and debate the Interviewer over whether you have “job hopped”. Chances are if you have moved enough to have it brought up directly (or indirectly via a number of work history questions), you have moved quite a bit. Accept it and work on trying to place a positive spin on your answer. Since you should expect it to occur, you can prepare potential responses to the questions on your work history.
 
·         Keep Your Cool - I recently had an interview where the person had 4 professional level positions in 5 years and became aggressively defensive when asked about it. Your work history is “fair game” in an interview, so if you have moved quite a bit, then you should expect questioning. It is not a personal attack and should not be perceived that way.
 
·         Avoid Negativity – You do not want to explain your absences by going negative. If your reasons for moving positions solely focus on being dissatisfied with the position, lousy supervisor, and annoying co-workers, then you will be serving to cement the Interviewer’s concerns about your “job hopping”.
 
·         Stress Being in Demand – In order to “job hop”, you have to find employers that want to hire you. Assuming the positions you were hired for were at or above your previous level, then you were “in demand’. You can answer the questions by stressing your specialized skills or knowledge. Perhaps you are skilled in a particular computer system, or maybe you have some specialized industry knowledge. Whatever the reason, you want the Interviewer to become more enamored with how good you are and less concerned with your “job hopping”.
 
·         Emphasize Knowledge or Experiences Gained – When you move around some, it is inevitable that you pick up some unique experiences or knowledge. It could be the exposure to a variety of company cultures or processes. It may be the different computer systems you have become familiar with using. Whatever it may be, all that you have learned can be brought to the new company for its own benefit.
·         Promote Your Achievements – Just like how you were in demand and able to find new employers excited in hiring you, also stress how well you performed for those companies. If you were able to make a big impact in a short period of time, this can really impress the Interviewer. It can show this person that you will not need much on-boarding time to be successful. This may also convince the Hiring Manager that even if you only stay for a couple of years, it will still be very beneficial to hire you. Communicate any successful projects you participated in or led, and likewise emphasize your goal achievement with past employers.
 
·         Close With Stability – You will want to give the Interviewer at least a glimmer of hope that you will stay for a while if hired. Talk about how, where you are now in your career, you would like more stability and continuity. Stress how you believe that this prospective employer will offer you the growth and career opportunities desired. You can mention how, after seeing several different employers, you know the type of company and culture that you want to work in (and how this potential company mirrors that).
 
If you practice answering the “job hop” questions, you should find that you can usually successfully answer the inquiry. You will want to do it, however, in a reasonable amount of time so you can get back to “selling” your candidacy for the open position. Do not allow yourself to ramble or answer the question in a non-concise way.
 
In a perfect world, you would not have a resume that would reflect “job hopping”, however, career decisions are made that individually make perfect sense but collectively reflects poorly on the Resume. You can recover from “job hopping” with a carefully constructed response when your work history is being reviewed. Do your homework and prepare to address the “job hop” question positively!
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.